Two priests, who got their 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter married off to each other, were arrested by the Hayathnagar police on Friday.
One of the accused Anjaneya Sharma, a priest at a temple in Banjara Hills, married off his 15-year-old son on February 1 to the 13-year-old daughter of Ramesh Kumar Sharma, who is a priest at the Vemulawada temple in Siricilla district.
“After the marriage, they were conducting post-marriage rituals for five days in a veda pathashala in Hayathnagar. During that event, we received information from the Balala Hakkula Sangham about the incident. We nabbed the relatives and parents,” said Hayatnagar Inspector J Narender Goud.
He added that the families had obtained the venue for the rituals under false pretence. “They conducted all the rituals secretly, including the marriage, by telling the management of the institute that they needed the place for other pooja rituals.”
A case has been booked against the two fathers of the minors under Section 10 of the Prohibition of the Child Marriage Act, 2006.
While the boy has been identified as a Class 10 student in Hyderabad, the girl studies in Class 8 in a Karimnagar school.
Speaking to Uma Sudhir of NDTV, the girl said that her parents had told her that the marriage would bring good things for her family and herself. She said that she wanted to continue her education.
“After questioning them, the parents said that it is their tradition and culture, and they were just following the customs,” said inspector Narender.
Speaking to NDTV, one of the fathers said that they had studied the vedas and were following them.
Both the children are now under the protection of Child Welfare Department.
Both Telugu states have reported many recent incidents of girl children being subjected to child marriages.
On February 3, another incident of child marriage came to light when a 14-year-old girl, secretly forced to marry a man four times her age, was able to free herself after four months.
The 14-year-old resident of Nalgonda district, lived in a government-run Kasturbha hostel for tribal girls, but was forced into marriage by her parents when she visited during dasara holidays.
“In 2017, already nine child marriages have been stopped in different parts of Telangana. Child marriage is very rampant in the state. I would say Andhra Pradesh and Telangana together have the second highest number of child marriage cases in the country,” said Achyuta Rao, a member of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
He also said that in 2016, 25 cases of minors being rescued from child marriages have occurred in Hyderabad alone, adding however that many more cases go unreported.
“More than 300 child marriages happened in 2016 – the number is highest from Nalgonda district. There every other marriage taking place is a child marriage,” he said.
I have talked to the families of both the children. They (the children) are not interested in marriage and rather want to study, but it is their family's superstitious belief which forced them to do so,” he added.
Achyuta Rao said that child marriage is a severe violation of child rights, especially of girl children because it takes away every other right from children.
“The girl can face serious health issues, and sometimes they are treated as slaves in the house,” he said.
He also said that the government needed to work harder to build awareness against child marriage. “The government does not have any proper awareness programmes at the gram panchayat level,” he said.